One casualty of the ongoing budget problems and overcrowding at public colleges is speed. The average time public college students take to earn what used to be called a “four-year degree” is currently about 4.6 years.
In fact, only one third of public college students earn their bachelor’s degree in four years, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
And that means the average in-state public college student is paying for an additional semester of tuition, room, board, and books—which is currently running about $12,000, according to College Board data.
Many private college students need more than four years to graduate as well, but on average, fully 53% of private college students earn their bachelors' degree on time, 20 percentage points higher than the public college rate. (For the private colleges that graduate students the fastest, see our list of the top 50.)
One major cause of students' slower progress at public colleges is underfunding. At some colleges, such as some low-cost California State University campuses, students complain they can't get into the majors or classes they need to complete their degrees. At several CSU campuses, such as San Jose State University, students have almost no chance to finish on time.
But students also slow themselves down, research shows. Generally, schools that accept students with less-than-perfect high school records—such as open access public colleges—tend to have low four-year graduation rates. Many struggling students have to take remedial classes before they can handle college-level work, which adds a semester or two to their degree.
And students who change majors late in their college career may have to take additional requirements, which can force them to spend an extra semester or two at school. (You can read more about the simple strategies to help you graduate on time here.
These 25 public colleges have the best records of graduating students on time. They are ranked by four-year graduation rates in the table below, which also lists Money’s best college values ranking and our estimate of the average cost of a degree for an in-state student, after college scholarships and grants are subtracted.
|College||state||Money ranking||% of freshmen who earn a bachelor's in 4 years||Estimated average net cost of a degree for the class of 2019|
|1. University of Virginia-Main Campus||VA||16||86%||$96,963|
|2. College of William and Mary||VA||60||83%||$99,106|
|3. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill||NC||40||81%||$86,637|
|4. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor||MI||22||76%||$97,359|
|5. University of California-Berkeley||CA||13||72%||$130,629|
|6. The College of New Jersey||NJ||53||72%||$131,357|
|7. St Mary's College of Maryland||MD||319||71%||$123,480|
|8. University of California-Los Angeles||CA||31||69%||$130,477|
|9. SUNY at Binghamton||NY||162||69%||$102,165|
|10. University of California-Irvine||CA||32||68%||$126,546|
|11. University of California-Santa Barbara||CA||95||68%||$135,233|
|12. University of Connecticut||CT||120||68%||$105,084|
|13. University of Delaware||DE||66||68%||$101,911|
|14. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||IL||76||68%||$122,217|
|15. Miami University-Oxford||OH||144||68%||$128,987|
|16. University of Maryland-College Park||MD||68||66%||$102,069|
|17. SUNY College at Geneseo||NY||359||66%||$98,680|
|18. University of Mary Washington||VA||107||66%||$101,952|
|19. University of Florida||FL||28||65%||$89,572|
|20. Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus||PA||177||65%||$147,090|
|21. James Madison University||VA||53||65%||$101,193|
|22. University of Vermont||VT||300||65%||$96,549|
|23. University of New Hampshire-Main Campus||NH||261||64%||$121,657|
|24. University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus||PA||319||64%||$133,585|
|25. Citadel Military College of South Carolina||SC||114||62%||$98,671|
Sources: U.S. Department of Education, Money calculations